COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- In a report recently released by the Federal Trade Commission, the Naples area ranks as the third worst in the country when it came to identity theft last year. The Fort Myers area came in at number six.
Mike Reagen, a volunteer with AARP, said he and others in the community are forming a group to spread the word about anti-identity fraud. The group is called the anti-identity fraud task force. It consists of identity theft experts and local law enforcement leaders.
Reagen said the idea is to have eight or 10 organizations look at simple tips to educate people on how they can begin to protect themselves. He said the group is in the beginning stages, but their goal is "that everyone is smarter, more careful with everything that we're doing and that we avoid and prevent identity theft where every we can."
"Basically, when the hair on the back of the neck stands up, you need to take action," said identity theft expert Carrie Kerskie.
She knows first hand because she too is a victim of fraud.
"I had my information exposed through a data breach a few years ago. So right now, my information, my husband and my son, our info is out there on the personal identification black market for people to buy and use however they see fit," said Kerskie.
Kerskie, who is an expert for the new group, said she will be working closely with the Collier County Sheriff's Office.
"Oftentimes I'll see people come victims from the exact same scam or because they gave up their information not knowing the consequences," she said.
So, what makes you an easy target? According to Kerskie, it's not knowing what puts you at risk.
"They don't understand the digital age. They don't understand if they're posting their date of birth on Facebook, and they're using an app that shows their family profile you've just given criminals a tool to finish identifying the rest of your information," said Kerskie.
But that may not always be the case, Kerskie said the data breach that affected her family happened at a hospital, which is hard to control. Kerskie recommends constantly monitoring your information.
She invites everyone to take advantage of upcoming forums put on by the Collier County anti-fraud group.